Synopses & Reviews
We live in a tumbleweed society, where job insecurity is rampant and widely seen as inevitable. Companies are transforming the way they organize work. While new working conditions offer gains for some workers, others lose out. Many have pointed out what these changes mean at work. Yet why would they affect us only in the workplace? In The Tumbleweed Society
, sociologist Allison Pugh examines the broader impacts of job precariousness, on our approach to work, our notions of what counts as honorable behavior, and our relations with the people we love.
Pugh examines the ways we navigate questions of obligation and flexibility at work and at home in a society where insecurity has become the norm. Drawing on 80 in-depth interviews with three groups of parents who vary in their experiences of job insecurity and their relative advantage, she explores how people are adapting to the new culture of insecurity and the effect of these adaptations on our willingness to commit, to care, to shoulder the burdens of other people's need.
Faced with perpetual insecurity both at work and at home, people construct stronger walls between the two, expecting little or nothing from their jobs and placing nearly all of their expectations for fulfilling connections on their intimate relationships. This trend, Pugh argues, often has the effect of making intimate lives even more fraught, reproducing the very insecurity they seek to check. Pugh shows that gender and social class filter our experiences of precariousness at work, shaping the way we talk about obligations, how we interpret them as commitments we will or will not take on, and how we conceive of what we owe each other--indeed, how we are able to weave the fabric of our connected lives.
In The Tumbleweed Society, Allison Pugh offers a moving exploration of sacrifice, betrayal, defiance, and resignation, as people cope in a society where relationships and jobs seem to change constantly. Based on eighty in-depth interviews with parents who have varied experiences of job insecurity and socio-economic status, Pugh finds most seem to accept job insecurity as inevitable but still try to bar that insecurity from infiltrating their home lives. Rigid expectations for enduring connections and uncompromising loyalty in their intimate relationships, however, can put intolerable strain on them, often sparking instability in the very social ties they yearn to protect. By shining a light on how we prepare ourselves and our children for an uncertain environment, Pugh gives us a detailed portrait of how we compel ourselves to adapt emotionally to a churning economy, and what commitment and obligation mean in an insecure age.
About the Author
Allison J. Pugh
is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Virginia. Her book Longing and Belonging: Parents, Children, and Consumer Culture
won the William J. Goode Book Award from the American Sociological Association Section on Sociology of the Family, and the Distinguished Contribution Award from the ASA Section on Children and Youth.
Table of Contents
Chapter I: The Tumbleweed Society: An Introduction
Chapter 2: The One-Way Honor System and the Moral Wall: Expectations at Work
Chapter 3: The Right Way to Feel: Nostalgia, Acquiescence and Anger at Work
Chapter 4: Cooling, Sacralizing, and Getting Real: Regimes of Obligation
Chapter 5: Jokes, Emotional Labor and Detachment Brokers: Strategies of Distance and Commitment
Chapter 6: Bad Mothers, Optional Fathers: Children, Need and Care in Insecurity Culture
Chapter 7: Commitment Heroism: Need, Care and Gender in Desperate Times
Chapter 8: To Raise a Flexible Child: Childrearing in Insecurity Culture
Chapter 9: Conclusion: The Inner Landscape of Insecurity